Small Things With Great Love: Awakin London One-Day
Posted by Ani Devlia on May 17, 2016
Last Sunday in London, at the Awakin retreat, 27 noble friends came to gather, in a simple intention to share stillness and presence, to serve and hold space for each other, to explore and cultivate the theme of "Small Things with Great Love." It is often said that small is beautiful, however this can easily be overlooked in the busyness of our day-to-day lives, when we can sometimes be led to believe that bigger is better without even realising. In stillness, reflection, gratitude and service, we dived deep into our own being to find ways that we can cultivate the awareness to organically practice small things with great love to serve our own journeys together with our friends, family and our communities that surround us.
That morning, the sun arose to bless us in all its radiant abundance. Abundance which flowed at many levels throughout the day.
As each person walked into the retreat room -- a space infused with beautiful quotes, flowers, and the lyrics of Servant of Peace -- they were welcomed in a warm embrace by Liam and Devika, blessed with a smiley pin and offered a heart pin to add to the fragrant mandala of jasmine and rose petals that adorned the centre of the floor.
Following an hour of stillness, we opened the day with a reading, Believers in Small Graces . One by one, we shared what had moved us to be there that day. Liam opened with a heartfelt reflection on how he had experienced the "great love" in the small things he had witnessed through his involvement with planning of the retreat. Some shared how simply offering our presence or a silent blessing can be a great act of love. Cleona honoured her husband's great act of love in making a cup of tea before he left for work in the morning. Some reflected on how "small" can sometimes be perceived externally as not enough. Yet if there is love and abundance within, small can be enough. A few questioned, what does it mean to do great things with great love? Many honoured their mothers great acts of love in the smallest things. A beautiful unfolding to have three mothers, Ana, Karen, myself to have three daughters, Rita, Nina and Devika in the circle. :)
Sangita, opened the "Head" part of this Head, Hands and Heart retreat with a reading Come Home to Love, followed by a reflective activity in "mini Awakin Cifcles". We explored where "Home" is currently in our personal journeys, but more importantly held space for each person's reflection. The heart of an Awakin Circle is in the art of holding space.
So what does it mean to hold space for each other? to listen deeply, with no judgment to listen with an open heart to allow another to share what is real for them in this moment to give another person your complete undivided presence and attention Like small clusters of bright colourful daisies on the lush grass, mini Awakin Circles began blooming across the garden to reflect on 3 seed questions: Where is "home" in your heart right now ?(eg. still, busy, tired, distracted, hopeful, etc) What do you want to come "home" to in your heart? What practices could support your journey to cultivate the "home" you want in your life? In the forty minutes that followed, birds, trees and the breeze witnessed and listened to all which emerged. In the circle of sharing which followed, many shared how "home" is where they are currently,in that moment, whatever that may look like. The present moment is the reality. Many reflected an intention to practice more exercise, yoga, meditation to bring them to a place of "Home". Interesting to observe the diverse perspectives of each individual.
In the spirit of all things in this beautiful ecosystem, lunch was an abundance of delicious offerings -- generous labor-of-love offerings brought by many different people to share with all.
During lunchtime, people were encouraged to think about examples of small acts with great love they had recently done for somebody else or had experienced. They then wrote these on a beautifully designed "love grows" tag. :)
By the end of lunch, our hearts and bellies were overflowing with gratitude for all we had received. Musical laughter rang out in the afternoon air as Sharmash soon engaged everybody with an energising uplifting 10 minute session of laughter yoga. Our cheeks and bellies ached from smiling and laughing. Our arms from all the hugging. :)
Remy, opened the "Hands" activity with a reading, Giving Somebody Your Heart after which we explored how we could use our hands and bring to life the act of doing Small Things with Great Love. In the spirit of selfless service our intention would be to share presence and connect deeply with a homeless person. Participants had brought along a few items which could be used in making up blessing bags for the homeless. Each person brought essential care items such as hand cream, water, lip balm, sweet treats etc. to put into a drawstring blessing bag, with the words, "I want you to know somebody cares". The one essential item which needed to be added to the bag was a small tangible token of love.
When we walk past a homeless person, sometimes we may be moved to drop a few coins in their cup, or occasionally buy food of a hot drink for them. One aspect we rarely consider, is their loneliness and emptiness. This is one of the most challenging aspects a homeless person encounters. Already in a harsh place facing basic survival needs of shelter and food they face added challenges of judgement and acceptance by the world. Their life situation is often shunned and as a result they are deemed as an outcast, become invisible. In reality, all they need is love.
In that spirit, we wrote anonymous love letters to a homeless person, popped them in alongside the care items in the bags. However, there was a twist. :) In an effort to further exercise heart muscles, people were asked to pair up and exchange bags with their partner. They would take on the responsibility to gift their partner's blessing bag to a homeless person, engage deeply with them and share the story with their partner in an email.
In the circle of sharing that followed, some shared how the activity made them reflect deeply on the power of writing a positive message. Raghav reflected how it made him think not just about the homeless people, but also about deeply connecting with some who materialistic ally have everything, yet could be suffering loneliness. Cleona and Sejal shared thoughts on whether signing the letter with their name would evoke a deeper sense of connection. It was beautiful to witness the extraordinary in the ordinary act in the writing of a few words with an open heart.
Following tea break, we moved into the final "Heart" session, opening with the reading Love Like Water. It seemed the silence in the room became louder as Trishna shared some background into Rev. Heng Sure's arduous 2 - 1/2 year silent 3 steps and a bow pilgrimage across 800 miles. We absorbed glimpses from the monks' Bowing journals of the pilgrimage. A journey ultimately for world peace -- which could only come about by cultivating peace in Rev. Heng Sure's own heart first.
In walking, in silence, in prostration, Rev. Heng Sure purified heart and dissolved ego. "There are only two physical positions when we can align our head , hands and heart. The first is when we are lying down to sleep. The other is when we bow to the ground." With these words in our heart, we embarked on our own 3 steps and a bow pilgrimage. In silence, in humility.
The final meditation flowed quietly into the concluding closing circle: a one word sermon with our eyes closed. Each person took turn to express what was in their heart, summarising it in one word, chalked on amber khadi hearts. This they placed in the overflowing Heart mandala, simultaneously picking up a heart pin to later bless a homeless person with.
On opening our eyes we noticed the gifts which lay in front of each seat. A magnetic bookmark with words of wisdom for books people had offered on the book exchange pay-it-forward table. A wooden key ring, hand written and decorated by two homeless women, Margaret and Minne. Both have a gift of creative talent -- found a deeper meaning in painting and writing on these small things, with great love.
And... Of course, with so much love flowing in our hearts, a big group hug is inevitable. :)
A mystery of the universe's forces which had aligned to bring each person to offer their spark of presence to co-create a space that held and nurtured.
As I write this, 10 days on, I am acutely aware how the reflections are formed from the perspective of my current lens, my current state of being -- or current "home" as we had discussed earlier. There are subtle and not-so-subtle difference in each individual. An infinite spectrum of variance in colour of perspectives at any given point in time. Within any gathering or circle like this, there is an abundant richness of perspectives, drawn from each individual, evolving from their life experiences, their state of being in that point of time. If we can allow ourselves to open our mind and heart, we open an opportunity to see beyond our own lens. These are tiny steps towards becoming whole. Ultimately, we are just a tiny fragment of a bigger whole.
Moment by moment.
Step by step.
Tear by tear.
Hug by hug.
Act by act.
Heart to heart.
From Me to We.
Here is a beautiful video,Trishna created which captures "Highlights of Small Things with Great Love - May 2016 Retreat" and a link to all of the photos from our time together: Small Things with Great Love - May 2016 Retreat.